Before Redoing Your Website
Know What You are Doing
Creating or renovating a firmâ€™s website is often a major undertaking. Because years can pass before a website is redone, it is easy to overlook key steps or strategiesâ€”and to underestimate the amount of time and effort it will require.
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Creating or renovating a firmâ€™s website is often a major undertaking.Â Because years can pass before a website is redone, it is easy to overlook key steps or strategiesâ€”and to underestimate the amount of time and effort it will require.
Having been a part of website design projects for many different types of businesses, I have learned what it takes for projects to succeed.Â In this post, I will share some thoughts about what makes a professional services firmâ€™s website different from other businesses, and some of the pitfalls to avoid.
Professional Services Firmsâ€™ Unique Website Requirements
- Firmsâ€™ â€śproductsâ€ť can be complex and costly, so buyers often do considerable research before buying.
- Clients have to trust the companies they buy services from, and even strong referrals may not be enough.
- A single sale can take months or longer, so the website has to nurture prospects throughout the buying process.
- Typically, a firmâ€™s practice areas must convey different messages to different audiences while supporting a single, firm-wide brand.
- Sites must also promote the firm to prospective employees, whose needs are different from other audiences.
Given such requirements, it is crucial to follow a rigorous, proven process.
Seven Ways Website Projects Can Fail
Before starting a website design process, it helps to understand what can go wrongâ€”and how to avoid such pitfalls.
Too many cooksâ€”The larger the group making decisions, the longer it takes to reach consensus.Â In fact, if a group includes strong opposing opinions, decision-making can grind to a halt; effectively ending the project.Â It is smarter to form a team of two to four decision makers, empowered by stakeholders.Â Providing periodic updates to the larger group is fine, on the condition that they are status updates only.
The absent decision-makerâ€”One of the most common and serious challenges is when a firmâ€™s leader does not take part in the design process, yet must still approve the site before launch.Â When key decision-makers are not involved in the process, they have no insights into the countless small decisions the design team has made.Â As a result, they often have unrealistic expectations, and will likely be disappointed in what the team has developed.
Scope creepâ€”It is important to clearly define the scope before starting the processâ€”and remain disciplined throughout.Â Scope creep can lead to blown schedules, major stress, and embarrassing mistakes.Â Of course, managing scope creep is the web firmâ€™s job, but they can only do so if all parties communicate openly throughout the design and development process.Â Remember: you can always plan a second phase to add new or overlooked features.
Unrealistic hopesâ€”I cannot count how many times a client has asked for a â€śwebsite like Appleâ€™s.â€ť Â But seemingly simple tasks can be extremely complicated to execute.Â On the other hand, technology constantly evolves, and certain website functionalities that were once out of reach are now both available and affordable.Â You can always ask about cutting-edge technology, but do not assume it will be easy or budget-friendly to implement.
Incomplete technical requirementsâ€”Documenting a websiteâ€™s technical requirements is harder than you might think.Â If your website is especially complex, your web development agency might even charge a separate fee just to untangle your new siteâ€™s intricacies.Â Fortunately, for simpler projects, a methodical review of your existing site and a collaborative technical review of the requirements for the new one will prevent major surprises.
Trying to write the content yourselfâ€”Waiting for new content to be written is the single biggest cause of website delays.Â If you commit to creating (or even editing) new text internally, be sure you have the people and accountability to stay on schedule.Â Remember to include time for reviews and revisions.Â If you are not sure you will be able to pull it off yourself, consider hiring a writer or editor to take over the burden.
An under-empowered agencyâ€”A rigorous process is critical to getting a quality site on schedule.Â If your website agency partner bends to your every whim, the project can quickly lose its way.Â Boundaries exist for a reason, so ignore them at your own peril.Â But putting your website redesign in the hands of an experienced agency and letting them do their job will result in not only a better journey, but a final product that actually meets your needs.
Aim Highâ€”and Stay on Course
Creating a high-performance website is a formidable challenge.Â The stakes are high, so it makes sense to approach the challenge strategically, and with a trusted, capable partner.
In my next post, I will discuss strategies for making sure your website project goes well.Â In the meantime, for more information, insights, and tips, please download our free Website Planning Guide.
Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is Managing Partner at Hinge, the leading branding and marketing firm for the professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow.
Dr. Frederiksen can be contacted at (703) 391-8870 or by e-mail to LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com.